Honda introduced the Civic to the U.S. in 1973. Since then there have been eight generations of the Civic, with the completely new ninth generation now arriving at dealers as a 2012 model.
These redesigned Civics include high performance Si models and the highly popular DX, LX, EX and EX-L trim levels that come in both coupe and sedan body styles. The highly fuel efficient Civic HF, the Civic Natural Gas GX, and this week’s review car, the Civic Hybrid, are available only as four-door sedans.
All the new Civics have electric power steering. They also come with vehicle stability control combined with traction control and brake assist. Base models feature a new 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.
Our review Hybrid uses a new 1.5-liter engine bolted to a continuously variable automatic transmission. It also uses the newest version of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system powered by new lithium-ion batteries. Together, the gasoline engine and electric motor produce 110 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. This provides more than enough power keep up with traffic, although you won’t confuse the car’s throttle response for that of a high-powered sports sedan. A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes just over 10 seconds.
Fuel economy, not blistering acceleration, is the goal in the Hybrid model, of course. And the new Civic Hybrid does well, easily eclipsing the results of the previous model. EPA ratings are 44 miles per gallon for highway and city, although with careful driving we were able to increase that figure by more than 15 percent. A driver who wants maximum fuel efficiency can rely on two light bars on either side of the digital speedometer. These bars glow green when little throttle is applied and deep blue - almost purple - when the car is being driven in an inefficient, lead-footed manner.
The Civic Hybrid cannot start out using just the electric motor, although once up to cruising speeds it can use either the gasoline engine or the electric motor alone. During braking, the gasoline engine deactivates; regenerative braking is used to slow the car while recharging the batteries. Once stopped, the engine if still warm shuts down for as long as the driver applies the brakes. The engine restarts with a mild shudder once the brake pedal is released. If the air conditioning is on it will stay on. All Civics except the Si include a ECON button that alters air conditioning settings to enhance fuel economy.
The Honda Civic Hybrid is exceptionally well equipped. Honda offers a leather package with heated front seats and a navigation system as options. Our review Civic had both of these features.
The leather package adds touch of luxury that is somewhat negated unfortunately by the hard plastic interior surfaces.
The car is roomy. Six-footers fit in the back seat, even when the front seat is adjusted for another six-footer. Hybrid buyers give up 1.8 cubic feet of trunk space and the ability to fold the rear seat to accommodate more cargo, however. The Hybrid’s trunk is rated at 10.7 cubic feet.
The ride is firm but reasonably compliant; handling is also good, although the steering has a slightly artificial feel. This is a common complaint with electric power steering systems. Noise levels on the highway are about the same as you’ll find on other compact cars, although coarse road surfaces can kick up a little more tire noise than expected.
Starts at: $15,605 (DX coupe) to $26,750 (Hybrid with leather)
Engines: 1.8-liter 1.5-liter 2.4-liter 1.8-liter
Models: DX, LX, EX Hybrid Si HF
HP 140 110 201 140
Torque(lb-ft)128 127 170 128
Automatic 28/39 44/44 NA 29/41
Manual 28/36 NA 22/31 NA